Your soundtrack alone won’t make you cool.
RATING — 2.5 / 5
“Own it. Own that shit!”
As Harley Quinn plays bartender to her newfound friends in villainy during Suicide Squad’s most coherent and well developed sequence, she suffers from a moment of clarity. It’s painful for her, when she confronts a fellow teammate to accept the consequences of a past transgression. She “owns it” every day, and there is a strength within that ability, but does she loath herself? Does she have regrets? Do the others at the bar?
Of course she does. Of course they do. For worse more than better, these rogues have made unwise choices in life. They fantasize of never having been caught, and dream of outcomes that couldn’t possibly come from their actions. In short, they are human. And in the end, they just want to be recognized as such. No redemption, no apologies, just acceptance from others and from themselves.
It’s possible that I pulled a little more from Suicide Squad than my colleagues have. Make no mistake about it — and please don’t misinterpret the above as anything more than slight observance and faint praise — the third installment in the DC Comics Extended Cinematic Universe is an absolute mess of grand proportions. Fantastic Four may have gone down in legend for its production woes, but Suicide Squad will be remembered for the insecurity and anxiety of its studio overlords.
The opening thirty or so minutes is a haphazardly assembled series of introductory exposition for the main characters, featuring Domino (Tony Scott) style graphics and color tints. Pop song after pop song plays all too quickly and all too frequently, to the point that suggests a case of mania for whoever was in charge of this bit. That might kinda be appropriate given the mental state of some of the protagonists, but none of this is subtextual style, but rather superficial schlock, rushed in with the hopes of being physically lighter and more colorful than Man of Steel or Batman v Superman.
Is the story too dark? Is the atmosphere a bit bleak? Just add a splash or two of paint (literally) and play danceable tunes in rapid order (literally). It’s so wrong headed, mishandled and desperate, it might as well be a Donald Trump speech. Does the film share more than that with the Republican 2016 Presidential candidate?
Buried under the disappointing nervousness of the “final cut”, I feel there was a good movie. Or, at least, potential for a good movie. The interplay and emotional engagement is almost entirely rested on the shoulders of Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. The few and far between glimpses into their past, into who they are and what they want, represent some of the more complex pieces of real character. Neither seek to become purely good necessarily — it’s possible that they use selfishness as a cover for doing the heroics they suddenly feel compelled to do — but they discover things about themselves that slightly alter their outlooks.
Slightly. Harley Quinn deserved a better arc, but what she got and what Robbie had to work with were acceptable at best. Somewhere, on the cutting room floor, are scenes and moments that further flesh out who she is, why she is, and the tragedy / strength of her existence. She and Joker have a Natural Born Killers vibe, but her Mallory Knox needs a Mickey to live and breath. Her “pudding”, as she affectionately calls him. Of course, having seen Oliver Stone’s classic, we know that Mallory, while she learns about herself through meeting Mickey, is quite powerful on her own. Harley doesn’t need Joker, or really anyone to feel whole.
THAT should’ve been her moment of clarity. Instead, it’s a line filled with shock and confidence in self. At the bar, not quite at her most vulnerable but her most open, she finds just how far she won’t go, in crime or passion. I assume the same can be said for the rest of the crew, making them, officially, good by default and contrast. It’s not ideal, but it’ll begrudgingly do.